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Manhunt in Colorado for "Armed & Dangerous" 18-Year-Old Woman "Infatuated" with Columbine & Denver-Area Schools Closed; Lori Loughlin Felt She Had "No Choice" But to Plead Not Guilty; GOP Aide: Trump "Is Going to Go Bonkers" over Mueller Report; New Scrutiny of Barr's Past "Principal Conclusions" Memo; Construction Workers Questioned as French Officials Figure Out Cause of Notre Dame Fire; Macron Plans to Rebuild Notre Dame Within 5 Years. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly of interest to voters, many voters in Florida as we get close to 2020.

Thanks to you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Kate Bolduan.

Schools closed down, authorities on the hunt, a region on edge. This morning, nearly 20 school districts in and around Denver are closed and thousands of students are staying home as authorities frantically search for this woman. This is 18-year-old Sol Pais, a high school senior from Florida. She's described as armed, extremely dangerous, and infatuated with Columbine, the school synonymous with tragedy. The 20th anniversary of that massacre is this Saturday. FBI officials say Pais travelled to Colorado this week. She bought a shotgun, ammo, and has made what they're calling credible threats.

CNN's Scott McLean is in Littleton, Colorado, where Columbine is.

Scott, tell us the latest on this search.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. Authorities believe after she flew into the Denver Airport, she went to the foothills area on the outskirts of Denver. Authorities are carrying out physical searches of some areas where she was last seen. There have been no credible sightings of her in the last 24 hours. They're working to try to establish any sightings of her on surveillance cameras, anything like that. But, Ana, as you know, that part of metro Denver is much more sparsely populated than down in the city.

I have to show you this. This is a pretty strange sight. This is Columbine High School, Wednesday, middle of the week. Normally, this parking lot would be full. There would be students. All we see are pylons, two or three police vehicles perhaps and an empty parking lot. The last time I saw this was last year on the anniversary of Columbine. They shut down the school and don't actually have class. There are 20 school districts that are shut down in response to this potential threat. That's not schools. That's entire districts. We are talking about potentially hundreds of schools. Not potentially. Sorry, hundreds of schools and many more students than that who are affected.

We are also learning more about Sol Pais as well. This 18-year-old woman that police believe is a threat, has this infatuation, they say, with what happened here at Columbine back in 1999. A local affiliate of ours, WJTV, spoke to a man in the Miami area at her home, identified himself as her father, who said this is like a bad dream. And it comes after the "Miami Herald" spoke to a man who identified himself as her father and who said he believes she has mental health issues and he hasn't been in touch with her since Sunday. And, obviously, authorities don't know where she is either. There's a lot of waiting and hoping that there's something because it's not clear that schools will even be open tomorrow -- Ana?

CABRERA: Scott McLean, I know you'll stay on top of this story. Thank you for bringing us the latest.

Joining us now is Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent and now a CNN law enforcement analyst.

So local, state, federal law enforcement all looking for this woman. They say she made a credible but unspecific threat. What does this mean exactly?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Law enforcement in the United States, whether FBI, local or state law enforcement, they get tips every single day. Think about the volume that comes in. They have systems in place to sort through that, to determine what it makes sense to cover and what is just noise. You look for certain things. You look for threats that are specific and credible in order to act on them. In this case, law enforcement is saying it's credible in the sense that they take whatever this tip is that came into law enforcement in Miami and shared with folks in Colorado, they take that serious. The part we don't know is the specificity. That's why we're seeing such a wide swath of schools here that are being shut down. They don't know exactly what her target is.

The second part is, is this person -- do they have the intent and capability to carry out an attack? They believe she does have the intent, otherwise, you wouldn't see this response. We also know she has the capability now that we've heard from law enforcement that she actually purchased a weapon.

CABRERA: It's unclear what exactly tipped off investigators but they say she made some statements which led them to believe this was a credible threat and, obviously, took action to come to Colorado, last seen going up into the foothills of Colorado, we're learning. What are investigators doing right now?

CAMPBELL: I talked to a law enforcement officer who said this is an all-hands-on-deck approach. You have state, local, federal officials fanning out. You think about we've seen investigations before where you have a manhunt. What we see on the ground, the physical officers spreading out, doing a search, there's a lot behind the scenes also, technical analysis, talking to witnesses, talking to people that are in this person's orbit that might help them to lead where she might be right now. The last aspect, the more important data point, we understand from authorities she is infatuated, as they call it, with Columbine. We are days away from a 20th anniversary. If you're an investigator, looking at those facts, is this somebody who might be trying to conduct a copycat attack? They don't know, which is why you see them taking it so serious.

[11:05:02] CABRERA: Just how widespread the fear and potential threat is, 20 school districts shutdown. My father is in one of those districts, my brother is in one of those districts, and my sister-in- law is in another district that's all impacted right now. Are you surprised to see them go that broad?

CAMPBELL: Not surprised. We've seen instances in the past where law enforcement has failed to act on a tip that came in from the public. Think about Parkland. If you're a law enforcement officer, that's your worst day, knowing something happened that you could have stopped. Now law enforcement officers, since Columbine, the last 10 to 20 years, where someone in the past may have been musing, talking about hatred, something that they want to do to someone, it may not have risen to law enforcement action. Today, in the United States, law enforcement takes these threats very seriously. So again, we see this response. They don't know exactly where the specific threat is, they're fanning out and leaving nothing to chance.

CABRERA: Because it's not specific, what does that mean? Once they find this woman, what happens? Can they charge her? Is there probable cause for an arrest?

CAMPBELL: Great question. Two steps here. When law enforcement officers, reports on the ground is that they don't yet have a charge. There's nothing they could put her behind bars for right now. Obviously, hate speech, there's a certain level before it reaches the level of criminality. That's a second order issue. Right now, because of the totality of the circumstances, you have someone who they believe has the intent, the capability, who potentially poses a threat, their number-one focus is to get her, to find her, to conduct investigative detention if needed to determine what the motive is. Then they'll figure out next what to do. But, again, the first goal right now is to get this manhunt to an end, find her, bring her into the vicinity for law enforcement officers to question her.

CABRERA: Make sure everybody is safe.

Thanks so much, Josh Campbell. I appreciate that.

We have new developments on the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted in the U.S. CNN is learning that Actress Lori Loughlin felt she had no other option but to plead not guilty in this case, according to a source close to her. She and her husband are among 50 people now charged in the scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly cheated to help their children get into prestigious universities. Actress Felicity Huffman was also charged. She has pleaded guilty.

Joining us now to break it down, CNN entertainment reporter, Chloe Melas, and CNN's Jean Casarez.

Chloe, what can you tell us about the mind-set, the reason Lori Loughlin and her husband pled not guilty?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: I've been speaking to people close to Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo. First of all, they don't understand why we're all still talking about it. Believe it or not, these are two individuals who were not part of the other parents who pled guilty in the beginning. They have been holding out because, in a way, it's almost as if they feel like they didn't do anything wrong. Although they have been charged with paying over $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC.

What I'm now hearing from a source close to Lori is that she and her husband felt like they had no other option but to plead not guilty because they had thought that maybe a plea was on the table for them in the beginning. They didn't want to strike a plea. They didn't want to plead guilty, like Felicity Huffman. That was never their intention. We're hearing they hope that justice will prevail, whatever that means. They are hoping that they are not going to get any sort of jail time and get out of this. You know, we do know that she is very estranged from her daughter -- she has two daughters, Isabella and Olivia. That she's estranged from Olivia, right now. Her number-one priority is also to repair that damaged relationship.

But we're also hearing they also hope that this buys them some time, that this allows them to hopefully get a plea deal. But I don't think she or her husband think they are going to ever be behind bars.

CABRERA: Which is really interesting, because the charges carry up to 40 years behind bars if they are convicted on the charges currently.

And then we have Felicity Huffman, Jean.



CABRERA: She's taken the other approach.

CASAREZ: That's right.

CABRERA: She's pleaded guilty, expressed remorse, and has been very apologetic about how this all happened. Yet, prosecutors still want to see her serve jail time.

CASAREZ: But it's the lower end of the federal guidelines because they are, according to a source close to the investigation, telling CNN, it is four to 10 months they will be recommending when it comes to her sentencing. Now, of course, it's all up to the judge. But the maximum is 20 years. She pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit, Ana, services mail fraud. By the way, on the services mail fraud, if you're wondering what it is, it's a plan or scheme to engage with someone through the mail service and not give honest services to them. It's a unique charge. But they are federal charges. That, I think, the judge can do a downward departure. But you've got federal guidelines that the judges need to comply with. It's not state law. It's federal. So, four to 10 versus 20 years maximum. She must have thought that's something she should take and not roll the dice and just wonder what happens.

[11:10:07] And I do want to say that the on-the-record statement that she gave to the judge, saying that she apologized, that she knows that her daughter took slots that other worthy, young people should have taken, and her daughter didn't know anything about it, that's for the judge. That's for the judge to say, are you really accepting your responsibility here. Is it authentic? Does it come from your heart? It was $15,000, not $500,000. And we'll see what the judge does.


CASAREZ: He could do a downward departure.

CABRERA: We know she's back in court --


MELAS: I just want to say that a law enforcement official has told CNN, a source, that, you know, there were never substantial plea deal negotiations going on with Lori or her husband, Mossimo, that there was never really a big plea deal on the table for them. But they are hoping that this now buys them some time.

CABRERA: OK. Thank you very much.

Chloe, Jean, good to see both of you.

Coming up, "The president is going to go bonkers." This is according to a Republican source, who predicts President Trump will not like what he sees tomorrow when the redacted Mueller report is released.

Plus, workers now being questioned as French officials try to figure out what caused the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. We're live in Paris.


[11:15:45] CABRERA: Anxiety, anticipation and fear of retribution all rising as Washington awaits tomorrow's release of the redacted Mueller report. Several White House aides are voicing concerns that new information in this report will embarrass and perhaps enrage the president. They expect it may provide the most credible account yet of the chaos inside the West Wing. One Republican source calls the tension among the president's aides very high, adding, quote, "They cooperated and had to tell the truth. He, the president, is going to go bonkers."

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House.

Abby, what else are you learning about the mood inside the White House ahead of the report's release?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, White House aides are waiting for this report, just like we are, anticipating it will contain nitty gritty details that will become very problematic for President Trump. The president has been saying publicly and privately that he thinks the report ultimately will exonerate him on collusion and obstruction. But his aides are worried about what it might say about how he conducts business here in this White House, things that he did behind the scenes that if they were reported in the media, he might blame on fake news. But this time, they would be based on accounts from his own aides, from people within his inner circle, who were told to cooperate with the special counsel investigator and who were expected to tell the truth in that setting.

Just take a look at some of the people we're talking about here, people who are the closest to him. Some of whom still work in this building, including Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, Hope Hicks, his former communications aide, a very close aide to the president, Reince Priebus, his former chief of staff, and many others. These are people who are now concerned that President Trump's mood about this report might change when it becomes public and all of these stories are revealed for the world to see. And it will be challenging, these aides believe, for the White House to deny these stories or call them a mischaracterization of what's going on, in part, because they're based on what these very same aides would have told to the special counsel. But at the same time, they're also not expecting that they'll have much of a heads up about what exactly is in this report. So many of these same people will be dealing with this in real time, just like we are -- Ana?

CABRERA: OK. We don't know, 24 hours from now, where we'll be.

Thank you very much, Abby Phillip.

William Barr has a history. When Barr had to explain to the American people a really important legal opinion from the Department of Justice, he took that opinion and turned it into a short report that, quote, "summarizes the principle conclusions." Sound familiar? I'm not talking about his summary of the Mueller report conclusions. This case unfolded back in 1989 and questions about critical omissions then are casting long shadows over tomorrow's release.

CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, is here with a "Reality Check."

Oh, boy. Sounds very familiar.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR: Oh, this is a good one. This is file under history repeating, Ana. This goes as a deep cut but you'll see how it's relevant.

It's been said that those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. That would appear to be the case with our attorney general, William Barr, in his four-page memo on the principle conclusions of the Mueller report. That's the same memo the Trump White House expects to argue is all you really need to know about the Mueller investigation. The nearly 400 redacted report is just an addendum. But here is the thing. It turns out Bill Barr has run this principle conclusion play before. When all the information finally came out, Congress found some pretty critical information was missing.

So, let's take a trip back to Friday 13th, October 1989. Tears for Fears was at the top of the pop charts. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born on that day. And one William Barr was working at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The president was George H.W. Bush. Now, thanks to some digging by law professor, Ryan Goodman, at Just Security, we know that, on that day, a legal memo written by Bill Barr, leaked to the press. It made the stunning assertion that the FBI could make arrests on foreign soil without getting permission of those foreign governments. That is a reversal of U.S. protocol as well as obligations under the U.N. charter. It was seen as an attempt to provide legal cover for the arrested of Panamanian strongman, Manuel Noriega. Two months later, the U.S. invaded Panama to bring him to justice on drug trafficking charges. This was all kind of a big deal.

Congress quickly came calling for the receipt, asking Barr for the legal opinion. But Barr refused to give it up. Instead, he offered a 13-page testimony that he assured Congress, quote, "summarizes the principle conclusions." Sound familiar? That's the exact same phrase and tactic Barr used last month when he framed the results of the Mueller investigation in his four-page memo.

[11:20:29] Back in 1989, Barr was being a skillful lawyer, advancing the president's interests. But it appeared he wasn't entirely forthcoming. We know that because, after Congress subpoenaed the actual 22-page document nearly two years later, they found significant differences between Barr's summary and the actual legal opinion. For example, Barr breezed over the president's obligation to take the treaties like the U.N. charter be faithfully executed, or the long- standing assumption that Congress would act within legal international law. Instead, Barr said the president doesn't have to be constrained by the U.N. charter because it's a political question. Barr also didn't mention that his opinion overturned an earlier OLC opinion about abductions on foreign soil. These were all significant sins of omission, conclusions that Barr tried to keep away from Congress. And they didn't come to light until years later. At that the point, the concerns were literally academic. A 1996 "Law Review" article concluded Barr's testimony, quote, "attempted to gloss over the broad legal and policy changes that his written opinion advocated," inciting the depth of its, quote, "deviation from its accepted norms."

Barr knows that the scrutiny on the Mueller report will be much more intense than a relatively obscure legal opinion. But this blast from the past matters. Because it revealed his instincts and methods in support of a strong executive presidency, at least as it applies to Republicans. That's why it's noteworthy that some on Team Mueller have come forward to suggest that Barr's Trump-era memo of principle conclusions is something less than the whole truth.

But we'll know a whole lot more tomorrow morning. But it may turn out to be more evidence that the past is prolog, especially when it comes to people. Or as Harry Truman used to say, the only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.

And that's your "Reality Check" -- Ana? CABRERA: What important context that gives us now as we look to the

Mueller report tomorrow --

AVLON: That's right.

CABRERA: -- and finding what the details reveals.

AVLON: Perspective is the thing we have least of. It provides a little bit, a little pregame analysis while we wait for the big document tomorrow.

CABRERA: We appreciate it. Thank you, John Avlon.

AVLON: You bet.

CABRERA: Coming up, dozens of workers questioned in France as officials try to figure out what started the fire that nearly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral. What investigators are looking for, next.


[11:27:22] CABRERA: Welcome back. French authorities are now interviewing at least 30 workers from Notre Dame Cathedral as investigators try to determine what caused the fire at the 850-year- old church. You see in these new aerial images, the extent of damage to the roof. There's that massive hole where the spire once stood. Authorities say the fire was likely accidental but, of course, there are still many unanswered questions.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is vowing to rebuild this cathedral. He wants it to happen within five years. And millions more in donations are now pledged to that effort.

CNN's Michael Holmes is joining us from Paris.

Michael, what is the latest on the investigation?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, they are trying to find out exactly how this happened. As we've heard, they say that it's an apparent accident, no sort of evidence of foul play. They've been interviewing dozens of workers who were up in the area. The scaffolding company had a dozen workers there just before the fire broke out but they had left an hour before the first alarm. And the company that employs them says nothing to do with us, denying any culpability.

We've seen today a lot of activity at Notre Dame. The fire brigade has been hosing down some of the hot spots still smoldering over there. We've seen that happen a number of times. We've seen cranes lifting large pieces of what appear to be sheathing or wood at the top to cover over that gaping hole in the roof. They're worried about more of the elements getting inside of the cathedral. Fortunately, it's a sunny day here in Paris and no rain, but they are worried about that. Also worried about winds swirling around inside because the stained-glass windows that were miraculously saved by the actions of the firefighters. They don't want them moving around with the wind inside and outside the building. So they're doing a lot of work to try to cover up the roof -- Ana?

CABRERA: The damage is stunning. And, yet, it could have been even worse.

Michael, what are you hearing now about plans to restore the cathedral?

HOLMES: Yes. Already, they're talking about it, aren't they? As you said, the French President Emmanuel Macron saying he wants it rebuilt in five years. That is incredibly ambitious. But he is also a president that has the Olympics coming here in 2024 and he would like Notre Dame opened up for that. A lot of other experts say it's most likely 10 to 15 years. I was talking to a preservation architect yesterday who said it could work them five years to work out how to do it because there will be a lot of disagreements on whether they try to make it authentic, using wooden beams again, for example, or whether to update it. The French president also announcing a high-powered committee -- they call it a mini ministry -- has been set up as of today that will focus solely the reconstruction.